President makes official visit to Bnei Brak

Neturei Karta hurl stones at Rabbi Aharon Shteinman’s house following Peres’s visit.

peres bnei barak 311 (photo credit: Shuki Lehrer)
peres bnei barak 311
(photo credit: Shuki Lehrer)
President Shimon Peres conducted an official visit to Bnei Brak on Wednesday in an effort to strengthen ties between the state and the haredi community. Throughout the day the president met with city officials and leaders of the haredi community, and also visited a haredi owned and operated hi-tech company.
Peres was received warmly, but after his visit to one rabbi’s house, the house was pelted with stones by members of the anti-Zionist hardei faction, Neturei Karta .
Peres started his visit at the Ponovezh yeshiva, where he was greeted by hundreds of students. The president said that the experience reminded him of his days as a boy in the heder studying with his grandfather. “I also studied at a heder, where I learned to read my first words and feel the sanctity of the Torah. My heart warms when I see you and I thank you for your warm welcome,” said Peres.
Following the visit to the yeshiva, the president met with Rabbi Aharon Shteinman, one of the leading haredi rabbis in Israel. The meeting, which was also attended by United Torah Judaism chairman Moshe Gafni, dealt with the future of the Israeli people, its unity and employment in the haredi sector.
The next stop was a visit to I-Rox, a hi-tech outsourcing company managed and staffed completely by haredi women from Bnei Brak. Peres toured the office and spoke to the employees, asking them about their experience at the job and the difficulty of balancing a career with a traditional haredi lifestyle.
The company’s co-founder and CEO Yehudit Swissa presented Peres and the other dignitaries with an overview of the company and its vision.
“We want to provide an alternative to companies taking their business abroad. We are against sending jobs to the far east when we have a willing and able workforce right here that can do the same jobs at competitive prices,” said Swissa.
“Since we established the company in 2004, we grew from employing 4 programmers to more than 70 today. We provide our employees with both extensive training and a comfortable work environment,” she added.
Swissa said the company plans to hire 40 additional programmers by the end of 2011 and reach 200 in the next three years, expanding to additional haredi centers across the country.
Peres congratulated the management and urged them to continue to think big.
“The secular society in Israel must create the conditions to enable more haredim to work, both women and men, that means the ability to have men and women work separately and during reasonable hours that will allow them to continue their traditional lifestyle. We must put a stop to the isolation. It is necessary for the future of the nation and the economy,” said Peres.
Peres said the next 10 years would be critical for the development of technology and that Israel has to situate itself at the forefront of the technological revolution.
“Israel may not be able to compete with places like China and India when it comes to the number of workers it produces, but we can lead the way in quality.... The haredi community is blessed with great minds. In the secular world people go to the gym to exercise their bodies, studying Torah is like a gym for the spirit and helps exercise the mind,” said Peres.
The president promised to reach out to Israeli business leaders and promote the employment of haredi women under conditions that suit their lifestyles.
“The fact that there is an abundance of Torah here, doesn’t justify an abundance of poverty,” he said.
The president’s visit to Bnei Brak concluded with a luncheon for 200 leaders of the community representing the different streams of Judaism present in the city.
According to a police spokeswoman, a group of several dozen mensurrounded Rabbi Shteinman’s house after the president left, holdingbanners and shouting, and hurled stones at the house to protest thepresident’s visit. The president’s office denied reports that garbageand stones were thrown at the president’s convoy.
No one was hurt in the incident and no damage was reported.
Large police forces were sent to disperse the rioters.
Accordingto haredi news outlets, days prior to the visit notices were spreadacross the city reading: “Oh to the ears that hear: the president ofthe Zionist state is expected to reach the place where Torah islearned.”